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Charleston chamber opposes change to 3X height zoning; vote set for today

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By Ashley Heffernan
aheffernan@scbiznews.com
Published Nov. 24, 2015

The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce is against a proposal approved by the city’s Planning Commission to eliminate 3X height zoning on the peninsula.

Charleston City Council will vote today on a zoning amendment that would downzone nine plots of land from 3X height districts — meaning the maximum height is three times the distance from the building to the center of the street — to 55/30 height districts, under which buildings must be between 30 feet and 55 feet tall.

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The Planning Commission voted in late October for the change, which would encompass the corner of Calhoun and King streets, including the Francis Marion Hotel, the city parking garage, St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, the new Bennett Hospitality hotel under construction at the northwest corner of Marion Square and two properties owned by the College of Charleston. It also encompasses 310 and 322 Broad St., the Sergeant Jasper Apartments site.

The Beach Co. has been planning to redevelop the Sergeant Jasper site for over a year, but its proposals have been met with significant backlash from community members.

The chamber sent a letter to Mayor Joe Riley and City Council members urging them not to change the zoning laws in the middle of development.

“Regarding the Sergeant Jasper project, The Beach Co. has invested millions developing a plan based on existing zoning laws assigned to the property, and changing the zoning laws midstream will cost the property owners an onerous amount of money,” the chamber’s letter said. “Further, aside from the cost of changing the zoning laws, the property owners will also be unduly burdened by having to rework all of their plans in order to fit within last-minute changes to the property’s zoning. If the property is rezoned, the property owners will have to take the time to go through the approval process again.”

The chamber said the zoning change would also make other properties on the peninsula noncompliant.

“If those properties are destroyed in a natural disaster, for instance, they would then not be entitled to rebuild their properties to their current heights and will suffer monetary consequences,” the letter said. “Further, zoning laws are put into place in order to give property owners in our city proper notice of what to expect when determining what to develop on a particular piece of property. If zoning laws are constantly being changed based on feedback from a select few residents, property owners in the city will never be able to trust the process that is in place.”

Charleston City Council meets at 5 p.m. today at City Hall, at 80 Broad St.

Reach staff writer Ashley Heffernan at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyBHeff on Twitter.

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